Social Enterprise Ideas – No. 1. Speak4Yourself.com

Here are some of my ideas – please help yourself if you like one – as writing them down is a good way to formulate them.

No. 1 Speak4Yourself.com – it has come of age with today’s IT

Between 1998 and 2003, I worked for a publishing company, which published business to business magazines and I went to various IT and mobile communications trade shows, which inspired some ideas.

Only now, the technology is ripe to put some of these into existence.

Replace Unpopular Market Research and Customer Satisfaction Surveys.

An income stream can also come from a section of the website generated by customer centric companies that want to proactively crowdsource ways to improve. This would require funding from the company and Speak4Yourself would work with the company to set the parameters to ask the companies. Customers would win points and be rewarded for participating in these campaigns (like market research could have done) and the resulting feedback would be presented to show the company had asked its customers for impartial feedback. The feedback would be anonymous, which would differentiate these pages from the customer originated ones. This would aim to replace annoying and time consuming customer satisfaction surveys that companies email out to try to look like they care but not actually listen and steal customers time without an expected time requirement.

Justification

Feedback is “take it or leave it” therefore companies cannot be forced to listen to their customers. Often they see themselves only from their point of view, which is polar opposite to how, particularly, a new customer sees them. Speak4Yourself aims to entice and motivate companies to listen to their customer feedback by gathering it together by area of focus, by creating a glossary of terms so customer and company are speaking the same language and by providing relevant and focused questions for customers to answer according to the area of focus.

The website would need to be a shining example, itself, of what it provides to companies. Some companies do not seem to be focused on their main offering. It seems they do not have a good enough profit margin by doing what they do alone. They resort instead to cost cutting, price increases, laying people off or removing funding from areas of the business, often to keep their shareholders happy.

Speak4Yourself will also provide them with a “Customer Centred” style badge and can improve their dialogue with customers, ease their call centre burden, reduce their running costs (particularly their spend on annoying market research or focus groups) and improve their public image, helping them potentially become more sustainable and perhaps even improve their marketshare and shareholder value. Coupled with that, they can provide testimonials about better processing organic customer feedback to tell customers they are listening and therefore more pleasant to use then their competition.

Company Feedback

My original idea was a One Stop Shop for company feedback, in the way that Last Minute.com was a one stop shop for spontaneous travel deals.

Speak4Yourself.com started as a website, which at the time had to be manned, but now it could propel itself.

Adverts would tell people that all feedback, complaints and requests for compensation could be logged on Speak4Yourself.

The visitor to the website would be able to follow a clear road-map to where to put their feedback.

Once a month, a report would be sent to companies with a summary of feedback plus a few comments. That would have been very labour intensive. However, today, with websites such as Trip Advisor, Feefo and Trust Pilot in existence, a whole app could be created, whereby a company can go and look at their feedback whenever they like.

The principle is that Feedback is “take it or leave it” and, like individuals, companies are not always very good at meeting, responding to and processing feedback.

That is where Speak4Yourself comes in.

In the original idea, a visitor would follow a road map to where to put their feedback, from a category, a more specific category through to the company name itself. Then they would be able to write whatever they liked.

The hard work would be done by the back office staff who would delve into each company and create a report to send them each month. This also required people searching for contacts to send these reports to and a sales team to follow up.

The idea was inspired by the amount of useless market research out there and the dismissive way companies met organic feedback when someone contacted them to give it.

During the 1990s, I wrote to various companies or had to make some complaints and I have a collection of very nice letters and was sent unexpected and unrequested feedback.

A friend of mine took it to another level and had a book published about how to make complaints and all the rewards she had earned in so doing.

Letters of a Dissatisfied Woman: The Fine Art of Complaining by Ingrid Stone

The aim of it was to help companies mine customer feedback for useful new ideas to implement without spending on market research. My idea was that customer feedback could be very valuable if harnessed correctly. It would also allow them to present themselves as “customer-centric”. Today, some of the most successful companies at using the customer experience to improve their products and services are amongst the most successful.

With current technology, here is what the Speak4YourSelf App would look like and how it would work for companies and customers.

Customer Crowdsourcing for Companies

Speak4Yourself is a one stop shop for complaints, comments, feedback and requests for compensation.

The website provides a mediator to provide customers with clear parameters to deliver their message to a company and get a better response.

After the first category, under which all supported companies would be sorted, there would be a feedback or complaint type. These would determine the answer options for each field. On the company’s feedback page, the replies would come under these sections:

What is your feedback about for example:
Website navigation
Store branch access
Website access
After service customer care
Live chat
Customer helpline agent
Social media interaction
Returns policy
Company contact information

There would be a clear signpost to how customers can suggest more areas of focus for which unique form parameters would be created.

Companies that ignore Speak4Yourself

On the flipside, companies that refuse to interact with the app will look even more remote, indifferent to their customers (business or end-user) and it could even highlight the companies that put their shareholders before their own employees and customers.

Speak4yourself allows a dialogue to open between a company representative, internal or contractor, and a customer. This would be very useful for political parties too.

Politics Crowdsourcing

Political campaigns could use it too.

Imagine if you didn’t know who to vote for and didn’t know who to ask.

Therefore, you go to Speak4Yourself.com to ask a political party a question.

You can navigate through a list of categories and under each one a menu of organisations. Therefore you select “Political Parties” then you select the one you want to ask.

A thoughtfully tailored form appears. This will be determined by the target organisation. See below for what the launch website would include and how it would get there.

You provide an email address and then are given options, in this case:

Ask a Question.

Each option triggers a relevant form. In this case, for example, asking a political party a question would post your question to a web page which the political party is sent access details to, so they can read and reply. This page was inspired by Trust Pilot.

Customer Feedback

The central aim of the website will be to open a dialogue between customers and companies they use or are trying to use. Twitter has made companies respond much better to customers as it their replies are public. Therefore, each company would have a webpage, where they can read and respond to their customers’ communications, which would be public and can be shared on social media and embedded on the company’s own website.

Many company websites assume customers are already familiar with their process and do not see themselves through the eyes of a first time customer. Therefore a category for “First Contact” would trigger this form:

Websites > “please enter the full URL” (customer gives the URL of the homepage they visited).

This would quickly take the customer to a form, which would provide the information on the company’s feedback page.

After providing an email address you would be asked

  1. Navigation (radio buttons for easy O OK O and difficult)
  2. Clearly signposted (radio buttons for easy O OK O and difficult)
  3. Price transparency (radio buttons for easy O OK O and difficult)
  4. Accessing relevant information ((radio buttons for easy O OK O and difficult)
  5. Funneling? (radio buttons for easy O OK O and difficult)
  6. Term matches (radio buttons for easy O OK O and difficult)

Of course, there would be a full glossary for “feedback terminology” which would become a whole new lexicography to help customers and companies speak in the same language. This is because, currently, a customer and company seemingly speak in 2 completely different languages. This leads companies to dismiss feedback and fob off customers, wasting valuable information. If a company dared reply with “you are the only person who seems to have this problem” then a Twitter hashtag can be created to help gather other customers who have had the same experience.

Setting up the Website – generic feedback.

Essentially, the website would be launched as a one stop shop for people to leave comments on a webpage, gathered via #companyname ie #Westernpowerdistribution

See TrustPilot’s homepage

Then see a company’s page. Here is Justpark’s page

I showed the Trust Pilot version above to show the difference between a mechanism for Reviews and Ratings and Customer Feedback. Feedback is when you want to open a dialogue with a company to get a response not just leave a public review.

Then, generic forms for customer feedback would be designed with fields to help the customer and company speak the same language.

ie JustPark (who I use) might have a page with the following information.

Justpark

Email address: ?

Website home page?

Homepage Funnel?

Clear signposting?

Process?

Navigation?

Pricing structure?

Check-out?

Confirmation?

Accessibility?

As I have written this, i now realise that the whole idea today is about customers helping companies they use make their websites easier to use as well as giving customer feedback. This is needed as so many companies still make it difficult for customers to contact them because they ask so many questions and identification, references, codes, IDs, PINs and passwords, often not providing entry formatting, having irrelevant forms or using different terms for the same thing, such as “booking ID” and “reference code” for the same thing.

For product or service feedback Speak4Yourself, there would be a set of radio button options, for instance:

Accessibility

Pricing

Customer Service

Interaction?

Navigation

Service or Product

Purchase Process?

Transparency?

followed by a restricted-length text field for a paragraph-lengthed comment

Neither the company nor the customer need reveal sensitive information during initial contact and response. If the customer is seeking compensation, for instance if a flight was cancelled, the comment that this happened and the reply would be public but then the interaction can continue behind closed doors. This would show how the company responds to customers.

There is always an averaging out over numbers of customers so if a company is attacked by trolls (the website would ask users to agree to a set of behaviour codes before being allowed beyond the landing page) they are able to contact Speak4Yourself by email to provide a link for the comment they have an issue with and the comment can be removed by discretion. Non-constructive criticism would be discouraged. Rageous customers would be gently redirected to Twitter or review and rating websites.

The policy “greet the customer as if they are right” would be the moto.

Advertisements

Secrets to writing press releases that get published

Press releases, or so-called ‘below the line advertising’, are a very effective way to promote your artistic activities. After all, people in your local area or industry would want to know what is going on. Remember that while you are writing.

Format

The simple format for a good press release is the same one you would use if you were asked to write an article as a journalist:

  • Who
  • When
  • What
  • Where
  • Why – the most interesting one that would form the central angle of your piece.

Despite current trends for what I call ‘me-me-I-I’ journalism, mainly employed by columnists who are famous or named journalists, a press release wants to be objective, in my opinion, to give it the best chance of being used.

Lively Quotes

If you don your journalist’s trilby, say out loud something you would say about what you are promoting. You could get someone else to interview you. The aim of this is to pick out some words that sound like a person speaking in a way that reveals their character and honest feelings about the event.

Promoters

If you are holding an event in a venue with a known promoter or shop owner, why not get them to give you a quote?

Remember to put details in between commas:

  • Full name
  • Age
  • Place of residence. If this is not local, then add:
  • If they have an historical connection from the area, add this briefly by saying ‘family from’, ‘grew up’, ‘born in’ etc
  • Relevant label for what you do, ‘artist’, ‘songwriter’ etc. Or for someone else, ‘promoter’ etc.

ie Comedian Rachel Formby, 34, who live in London and was raised in Cambourne, says, ‘I never thought it would happen.’

Opening

Your first paragraph wants to sum up, in less than 30 words, what the event is about. To do this you could mention:

  • Who is the event for?
  • The urgency, ie next week, this Sunday, the first gig by…
  • Why the event has come about
  • A colourful picture of something current, talked about, or a recent news event that relates to your show.

These above 4 points are ideally incorporated into a concise summary of who, where, what, when. Why? would be in the second paragraph. Here’s an example:

the West Briton

Visit my Art (Current) page to see more recent examples.

The most important thing is to get write something down and send it in.

Look through your local newspapers to find the email address to send your news too.  Phone up or look for deadlines, so the issue your item appears in gives readers time to arrange to come along.

Think of a triangle with its tip facing downwards: This is the technique used by many newspapers. This means that your piece can be fit into whatever space is available. If you start with an intro that sums up who, when, what and where, then write a para on why. Follow that with your quote. Then provide any more information, what people need to do, buy tickets, turn up, bring a bottle, etc. If you can get readers to take an immediate action, while they are still inspired with your event, that will be a winner!

At the bottom, put a listing in this format:

TITLE OF EVENT

Date, time, entry price. Doors: (8pm-late)

@ Venue, address, your telephone number. Venue telephone number.

If your story strikes a chord with the newspaper, they may phone you up and interview you.

Photography:

  • Make this 300dpi (high resolution)
  • Make sure no business icons, logos, or other product brands are showing.
  • Say what the photograph shows in plain, informative, factual words
  • Choose a picture that tells a story if possible. Ideally this would sum up your event. Try to include yourself, other people and give their names.

Social Media:

When putting your event on Facebook, try to ensure that the date, time, venue, its location or address and entry price appear in what people receive. You could test this with a friend before you send out your bulk of invitations.

If you are interested in promoting events, products or getting people to a venue, I recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s book Tipping Point. The easier you make it for people to turn up, by including nearby railway stations or bus routes, the better.

Tip:

If you are promoting a profitable business event or launching a new company, try to keep this information subtle, and at the end of the piece. Put what the readers would be interested in before any information that you want to get out there. Try to avoid:

  • Saying how great it is.
  • Using adjectives or adverbs
  • Using an impersonal, formal style.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be a piece of poetry, even if you are promoting a poetry event. Include information that the newspaper would like, arts, events, community interest, local characters, and what readers would be drawn to.